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Friday, December 28, 2007

(Updated) R.I.P. State Senator Ben Altamirano: 1930-2007

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Senator Ben. D. Altamirano:
October 17, 1930 - December 27, 2007

UPDATE 12.29.07: See our subsequent post for details about final observances to honor Sen. Altamirano.
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Ben Altamirano, the New Mexico Legislature's Senate President Pro-Tem, passed away Thursday at his home in Silver City at the age of 77 after a heart attack. In recent years he had suffered with coronary problems and underwent surgery. He was also hospitalized in 1981 after suffering a heart attack. According to an AP article, Gov. Bill Richardson made the announcement late Thursday, saying Altamirano was a true statesman whose love for New Mexico helped him earn the respect of everyone who crossed his path.

"I am deeply saddened by the passing of a great New Mexican and my dear friend, Benny Altamirano. ... Benny will be dearly missed," Richardson said.

Click to read a statement (pdf) released this afternoon by Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez on behalf of the New Mexico Democratic Senators. An update on funeral arrangements is expected to be available soon at the New Mexico Senate Democrats website.

According to a report by KRQE News:

Senate Majority Whip Mary Jane Garcia of Doña Ana saw him last week when Democrats caucused in advance of the opening of the Legislature on Jan. 15.

"He looked so healthy and so happy looking forward to the holidays," she told KRQE News 13. "We were visiting and chit-chatting.

"Then he was in caucus, and there we were discussing the healthcare initiatives that are going to come before the session. He's always been a kind of peacemaker working with both sides of the aisle."

Senator Altamirano, a prominent Democrat, represented District 28 encompassing most of Catron, Grants and Soccoro Counties since 1971, and was the longest serving member of the New Mexico Legislature. For 17 of those years he held the powerful post of Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Over the years he served on Senate Committees dealing with public school appropriations, capital outlay funding and conservation. For the last three years he was President Pro-Tem, following Democrat Richard Romero in that post.

Governor Richardson will appoint a replacement Senator from among a list of nominees recommended by the county commissions in the three counties represented in District 28.

Altamirano worked in insurance and retail outside the Legislature and unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 1994. He was one of four Democratic candidates that year in a primary election race won by Patricia Madrid.

Born in Silver City on Oct. 17, 1930, Sen. Altamirano enlisted in the United States Army in 1946 and served with the European occupation forces during World War II. Upon returning to Grant County, he attended Western New Mexico University. He served as a Grant County commisssioner from 1966 to 1970 and a city councilor in Silver City from 1960 to 1970 before he got elected to the Legislature. For 40 years Altamirano also owned several grocery stores.

He is survived by his wife, Nina Melendez; his two sons, Ben Jr. and Paul; and daughter, Yolanda Manzano.

December 28, 2007 at 01:20 PM in Democratic Party, Local Politics, NM Legislature 2007, NM Legislature 2008 | Permalink

Comments

I offer your condolences to the family of Senator Ben. D. Altamirano. He is my husband's uncle. He and his wife Nina made us feel especially welcomed during our visit to their home in Silver City, NM. He had a very special relationship with his dog King. It's an honor tohave just known you.

Posted by: Michelle Melendrez | Dec 29, 2007 3:58:08 PM

I offer my condolences to the family of Senator Ben. D. Altamirano.

Posted by: Michelle Melendrez | Jan 1, 2008 9:49:31 PM

On behalf of the former members of Estudiantina del Tecnologico de Chihuahua Mexico, I offer my condolences to the family of Senator Ben D. Altamirano. He and his wife Nina, made us feel like part of their community every time we went to play our music. Thanks for being part of our development.

Posted by: Jose J. Torres | Jan 3, 2008 12:23:52 PM